Deepwater Horizon 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
After so many big budget failures, you’d think studios would avoid giving director Peter Berg huge sums of money to make movies. But LONE SURVIVOR was just successful enough to remind people that despite THE KINGDOM, HANCOCK and BATTLESHIP, Berg can sometimes get it right. But I wasn’t a huge fan of LONE SURVIVOR and so I went into DEEPWATER HORIZON with caution, mainly because of Berg. But I’m pleased to say that DEEPWATER HORIZON was a very intense and exhilarating true story of a very recent, tragic accident.
The film tells the mostly true story of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that led to the gulf coast oil spill of 2010. You probably remember the constant images of oil-covered animals on CNN, but this is the story of the events leading up to the spill and the people that managed to survive the explosion. We see this through the eyes of Mike (Wahlberg), who is the Chief Electrical Engineer on the rig. We get to know him more than the others by spending some time with him at home as he says goodbye to his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter. The events and decisions leading up to the disaster shouldn’t surprise anyone; the rig is being leased by BP and so BP has representatives on board that are pressuring the crew to take chances they shouldn’t be taking. Of course, one of those chances backfires and that causes the entire rig to go up in flames and cause the worst oil spill in American history.
Contrary to other films with similar themes, I actually enjoyed the scenes leading up to the disaster almost as much as the action scenes following the disaster. Berg did a good job of setting everything up and probably had to resist the urge to make the BP executives out to be the evil villains we all think they are. He could have easily turned Vidrine (Malkovich) into a comic villain, but instead presented the events as they probably transpired. So although the audience instantly disliked Vidrine, we also had to stop and question if anyone else could have prevented the disaster by standing up and refusing to go along with the ill fated plan.
The “action” in the film was very impressive. There are no superheroes here and everyone that survived did so by natural means. But the special effects were the star of the second half as I constantly found myself wondering how they made the fire and explosions look so real, especially as famous actors were running around. Berg also did a nice job of putting us in the fire and making us feel the intensity and stress of the situation the characters were in. And since we knew this was based on a true story, it made everything seem more real.
DEEPWATER HORIZON was a nice surprise for me since I wasn’t expecting very much. I can easily say this is my favorite film of Peter Berg’s, even if that’s not really saying much. But he crafted a nice story with intensity that payed homage to the crew of the real Deepwater Horizon. Couple that with a reserved performance from Mark Wahlberg and you have one of the surprises of 2016.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: If you’ve read any 4K Ultra HD review of a movie that featured even a single scene of fire, you’ve probably read that fire can look a little cartoony on 4K. So I was worried that a movie featuring fire in almost half of the film was going to come off looking a little fake. Well, the fire in DEEPWATER HORIZON, along with everything else, looks absolutely fantastic. This is mainly because of the high quality transfer, but also because Peter Berg used a lot of real fire in the movie, whereas a lot of fire used in movies is from CGI. But this transfer is wonderful, especially in the later half of the movie when the fire erupts at night. But you see explicit detail in the fire and in the backgrounds that looks a little washed out on the Blu-ray. The detail really stood out during the closeups (Kurt Russell looking old makes me feel old) where you can see things in their faces and clothing you just can’t see in the Blu-ray. But the real highlight is the fire and explosions, which blew me away (no pun intended).
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is a very nice compliment to a great video transfer.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
In a strange twist, the 4K version actually includes the following special features, which can also be found on the Blu-ray.
Beyond the Horizon (51:21): Six separate featurettes focus on the various actors in the film. Even though it runs just under an hour, the majority of that runtime is made up of movie scenes.
Captain of the Rig: Peter Berg (18:15): This one is somewhat similar to the featurettes above, but this time the focus is on director Peter Berg.
The Fury of the Rig (27:20): Peter Berg takes us through some of the bigger stunts in this nice featurette. I really liked this because I was interested in learning how they made this look so real.
Deepwater Surveillance (17:40): This makes up 12 different mini-featurettes showing how the cameras were set up on the various stunts. I recommend at least checking out the oil-rig jump that shows the camera jumping off the rig with the stuntwoman. That was very impressive.
Work Like an American: There are a several different featurettes in this section, some focusing on specific American workers and others focusing on general jobs. This is kind of a fluff piece for keeping American jobs. I understand the need for things like this, but I’m not sure the Blu-ray is the place to put them.